Penny Lancaster ‘deflated’ after Government rejects menopause leave trial

Penny Lancaster said she is feeling “deflated” after the Government rejected calls for a trial of menopause work leave.

The 51-year-old former model, who is married to singer Sir Rod Stewart, has been outspoken on her own struggles with the menopause and is an ambassador for the charity Wellbeing of Women.

A pilot scheme on menopause leave was recommended by the Commons Women and Equalities Committee but the Government said on Tuesday that the proposal was not seen as “necessary” and could turn out to be “counterproductive””.

Sky News asked Lancaster what was her reaction to the decision, and she said: “Gosh, just deflated, really. I mean, women of 50 and over are the highest demographic in the workplace.”

She added that three in four women suffer symptoms with some experiencing “serious” issues.

Lancaster added: “The sad thing is that if the workplace doesn’t help women with the menopause, then they will start reducing their hours, they won’t consider promotion, and even go to the point where they will quit jobs because of the extreme symptoms that menopause can have.”

She said Wellbeing of Women calls on employers to sign the Menopause Workplace Pledge, which provides a template for women.

Lancaster added: “The pledge that the (Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle) actually signed, that we were thrilled that they did, gives very clear guidelines to what kinds of things the workplace could do to help women, but not only that advice that comes from the charity, but also to listen to the individuals, because each case is very different.”

The TV personality, who has been a panellist on ITV’s Loose Women, said that when she started having symptoms she was prescribed anti-depressants by her doctor before accessing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the menopause.

She said: “(The anti-depressants) didn’t help and make things worse, because you end up feeling like you’re going crazy, but no one to talk to you, you feel very alone, and in the end I was diagnosed that it was in fact the menopause and I have luckily been on HRT, and it’s been life-changing.

“So more women need that guidance and help and particularly support in the workplace.”

Lancaster added that her workplace, the City of London Police, where she is a special police constable, has set up coffee mornings, signed the pledge and pursued other initiatives to help women going through the menopause.

She added: “I guess the worst one (symptom) is just the anxiety and fear because you do get a brain fog.

“You get dips of depression, where you feel like not motivated and you can’t get up in the morning.

“There’s symptoms, of course, are very common, which is sort of physically you see women getting those hot flashes and it almost gets to the point where you feel like having a panic attack.

“So unless you talk to other women that are going through a similar thing, or people in your workforce have got an understanding mentor, then you do feel lost and the fear (makes you)… just want to give up.”

She completed her training for the force in April 2021 after appearing in the Channel 4 show Famous And Fighting Crime, in which celebrities swapped their day jobs with those of emergency service professionals.

In September, Lancaster took to the streets of central London as part of the force policing the Queen’s funeral procession.

Ministers have also resisted a recommendation from the Commons committee to make menopause a “protected characteristic” under the Equalities Act.

The recommendation, along with the workplace trial, formed a key plank of a report by the cross-party committee in July last year focusing on menopause and the workplace, but in a response published on Tuesday the Government rejected the two suggestions.

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise that the menopause can be a challenging time for women, which is why we have put women’s health at the top of the agenda as part of the first-ever women’s health strategy for England.

“We are implementing an ambitious programme of work with the NHS to improve menopause care so all women can access the support they need.

“We encourage employers to be compassionate and flexible to the needs of their employees, and are committed to supporting more flexible working patterns – having consulted on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reasons not to.”